Watch Incubus: a retro-future comedy short that leaves reality behind

Louis reflects on his time at BFI Film Academy making his first film as part of a crew and bringing their Black Mirror-esque vision to life.

A vision of the future that seems stuck in the 80s, our short film Incubus explores how far you would go to be popular and whether you would reveal your subconscious to strangers. Although this technology is but a dream to us in the 21st century, the questions it raises are very applicable to our social media age. Our online personalities can become destructive as people do more and more to stand out.

As part of the BFI Film Academy Bristol at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, we worked as a crew of nineteen young people. We all developed skills in different areas of filmmaking and brought them together to create this short film. Incubus took inspiration from many different sources: the darkly comical and techno nihilism of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror was a huge influence on our films’ tone, Michel Gondry’s surreal exploration of memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was another reference point that inspired us to explore the inner workings of the mind, and we also took notes from the hypnotic filmmaking of David Lynch.

We chose the 80s retro aesthetic as that was an era of massive cultural change significant to the themes we were exploring in our film. With the birth of the music video as well as the consumer culture that was proliferating, people’s appearance became very important to their identity. We took inspiration from various different elements of the era’s pop culture, including the Bowie-inspired fashion of the New Romantics, the pastel colour scheme of Miami Vice, and the makeshift aesthetic of Punk and The Young Ones. For our fictional band, Diabolik (a subtle reference to 80s icons Duran Duran) we took inspiration from the the industrial electronic music of Kraftwerk as well as their tech-y presentation.

But the most valuable source of inspiration was from our own experiences. We all had different run-ins with the weird world of social media and with clique culture as well as lots of embarrassing party stories. We hope that by bringing our unique perspective as people who have grown up in the digital age, we have made a film that we hope will leave you questioning where should we be looking to find meaningful connection and true friendship.

Open to young people from anywhere in the UK and from any background, the BFI Film Academy offers a chance for talented 16 to 19-year-olds to be part of our future film industry. The BFI Film Academy Bristol runs two different courses, one at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and one at Watershed. Each course runs one evening a week and some weekends. Applications open again in September and the courses will run from December 2019 to March 2020.

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We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

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